Have you seen that funny Portandia video where everyone in the office goes to lunch – and then falls asleep at their desk shortly after? While it’s funny to see the cleaning lady wrap blankets around then, when WE feel THAT sleepy after lunch, it’s not so funny.
So, what can we do? Clearly, don’t overeat! Here are some basics about putting together a meal that will keep you energized and productive all afternoon:
- Adequate protein (20-35 g – the size of the palm of your hand)
- Some healthy carbs, but not too much
- Lots of filling veggies
That’s easy to visualize if you’re eating a clearly meat/carb/veggie meal. It would consist of a chicken breast, brown rice, and green beans. Or maybe salmon, quinoa and broccoli. But, we don’t always eat lunches like that, especially in restaurants.
Restaurant Options If You Feel Sleepy After Lunch
Let’s face it, restaurant meals are not perfectly balanced. They are HUGE. And, they tend to be very high in carbs…and fat. A perfect formula for feeling sleepy after lunch.
Pizza is heavy in the carbs. You’ll get some protein from the cheese and meat – but usually only 10-15 g per slice, so to get your protein you need at least two large slices and load up the meats. But the dilemma is that it will give you too many carbs. You’re destined to feel sleepy after lunch with these quick absorbing carbs. And, there’s very little veggies to slow down the absorption of those carbs. It will help to add a large salad or other vegetables to make this more complete. But, for many, pizza is not a good option – too many carbs, not enough protein, and too many unhealthy saturated fats, especially when you pile on the meats to try to get more protein.
Pasta is, again, high in pasta. If you really want it, though, don’t go with just sauce. It might be low calorie, but there’s very little protein with just pasta and tomato sauce. Add some chicken or other protein. And maybe a salad with that. And, skip the bread sticks. Those extra carbs will surely put you to sleep mid-afternoon.
Sub sandwiches are very popular at lunch. But most tend to be very heavy in the carb category as well. Again, a perfect formula for feeling sleepy after lunch. If that’s where I’m forced to eat lunch, I tend to order the smaller siz-inch sub, but request “double the meat”. Most of the meats tend to be lean (chicken, turkey, ham, beef). The highest calorie ones are the salami, pastrami…and of course, cheese). Again, a salad will help to slow down the absorption of all those carbs. Since I don’t like plain ice berg lettuce, I might add a piece of fresh fruit for more fiber.
Tacos and Burritos. If I go to one of those build-a-burrito or taco place, I choose a salad with any meat (none are any leaner than the others), but skip the cheese. Did you know that cheese has (ounce-for-ounce as much fat and calories as fried chicken?). Opt for beans only (no rice) for a healthy carb choice on your salad. If you’re going for the burrito or taco, you may want to skip both the beans and the rice…or those extra carbs are likely to put you to sleep.
Salad. What if you’re craving a salad, how does that fit? While you have plenty of veggies, make sure you add some protein like grilled fish or chicken – rather than fried. And, perhaps opt out of the cheese to cut some calories (restaurant salads often have in excess of 1000 calories). But, with a salad, you’re going to have to add in a carb or two. Maybe opt for tomato soup or one bread stick. Or add beans or quinoa to the salad. Many salad dressings are high in sugar so choose a vinaigrette.
Burger. Looking for a burger? I personally opt for the veggie burgers…cuz I love the taste. But if you want a beef burger, a quarter pound is adequate for meeting your protein needs. There’s no need to go for the half-pounder. But realize that the huge roll AND the fries will put your carb intake way over what you need to stay productive all afternoon. How to cut back on the carbs is your choice. You can eat the hamburger topless or skip the fries. Or maybe just eat half the burger and save the other half for a 4pm snack.
In fact, considering that most restaurant lunches contain 1000-1500 calories – or even more, you might find yourself more energized during the afternoon if you eat just half of your lunch at lunchtime – and half around 3 or 4 in the afternoon. This is especially helpful if your dinner tends to be late.
My book, REBOOT, offers plenty of at-home and specific restaurant options that will reboot your energy.